Prominent U of L surgeon says KentuckyOne Health is 'destroying the hospital'


The vice chair of surgery at University of Louisville Hospital (Ky.) is bringing attention to what he says are "unsafe working conditions" and serious patient safety issues at the hospital since it turned over management to Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives' Louisville-based KentuckyOne Health. 

The surgeon, J. David Richardson, MD, who is also president of the American College of Surgeons, voiced his concerns in an email to officials at the university, which was provided to the Courier-Journal. Nurse layoffs and the resigning of the hospital's president, Ken Marshall, has led to understaffing at night and in the intensive care unit, according to Dr. Richardson's June 7 email. This leads to backups and overcrowding in the hospital's emergency room and intensive care units, and has made it "virtually impossible" to perform research, according to the report. 

"Quite simply, we need to determine if CHI is going to allow us to run as an academic center or not. If not, we should simply admit that we are going to be another community hospital similar to what they have in Iowa or Kansas and quit pretending that we can have major teaching activities here, be a trauma center, and provide care for very badly ill or injured patients," Dr. Richardson wrote. In an interview with the Courier-Journal he said he understated in the email how bad the situation is at the hospital. 

KentuckyOne took over management of the hospital in late 2012, with the promise to funnel $1.4 billion into operations over the next two decades, starting with a $135 million investment in the first three to five years, according to the report. However, the health system hit a rough patch financially, and had to lay off 500 employees in 2014, according to the report. 

The health system provided the Courier-Journal with the following statement: "ULH is an excellent hospital with a dedicated and talented team of professionals that is staffed to meet the patient's needs. Our focus has always been on quality, safety and patient experience."

A KentuckyOne spokesperson provided Becker's with the following emailed statement: 

"KentuckyOne Health believes that ULH is safe and delivering quality care to this community. Together with CHI we are committed to the ongoing partnership and investment with U of L to advance the high quality patient care that continues at University of Louisville Hospital. We share the University’s desire to ensure this partnership, collaboration and investment is directed to the critical needs of ULH, including ensuring nursing and support staff levels are sufficient to provide patients with the bedside care they need and deserve. ULH is an excellent hospital with a dedicated and talented team of professionals that is staffed to meet the patient’s needs. Our focus has always been on quality, safety and patient experience.

Our partnership consistently demonstrates results. The focus and investment on quality and safety is generating positive trends on key performance measures, particularly in comparison with other academic medical centers nationwide. In academic research, CHI recently supported the three-fold expansion of U of L’s cancer research biorepository which will aid U of L researchers and physicians. These actions, and many more, have demonstrated our commitment to U of L and ULH.

As a matter of privacy for all personnel, KentuckyOne Health cannot comment on the reason any given employee may resign, however it is important to correct there is no effort to make a $10 million cut in spending at ULH. We recognize Ken Marshall’s extensive contributions to ULH and the community. Following Ken’s decision, U of L and KentuckyOne Health will now work together to identify a new leader who will build on Ken’s efforts in safety, quality, employee engagement, and innovation."

Editor's noteThis story was updated at 3:00 p.m. CT to include the emailed statement from KentuckyOne. 


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